Ogoni women demand 30% inclusion of women in clean-up process

Ogoni women under the aegis of the Federation of Ogoni Women Associations (FOWA) has demanded from the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) to implement a 30 per cent affirmative action in the implementation of the clean-up process of Ogoni project as it (HYPREP) begins the process of developing its gender policy.

The women demanded that the agency should ensure that 30% of employment, contracts and interventions are set aside for women adding that HYPREP should deliberately involve Ogoni women in every level in its decision-making process.

They made the call during a press briefing in Port Harcourt Thursday after a workshop by Environmental Right Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria ERA/FoEN and other civil society organisations on mainstreaming gender in Ogoni clean-up process.

The women also demanded that 2000 Ogoni women be trained annually on livelihood activities after conducting a comprehensive needs assessment while observing that report by HYPREP “on the training of only 1,200 Ogoni women so far on livelihood activities “insults the sensibilities of Ogoni women and grossly underestimates the scale and complexity of the livelihood practices and needs of our women”.

Dr Patience Osaroejiji, spokesperson of FOWA stated: “HYREP should develop a gender policy that meets international best practices for the implementation of its cleanup activities in Ogoni adding that the agency should implement all of the emergency measures recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP with deliberate speed to reduce the burden that Ogoni women bear.

“That the international best practices of gender equality invoked in the engagement of workers on all lots by the community and the companies. HYPREP should make public-key performance indicators to enable Ogoni women to monitor and evaluate the progress of work on the cleanup.

“HYPREP should commence work on the provision of potable water in Ogoniland and the setting up of the centre of excellence to train thousands of young Ogoni youths on oil spill clean-up and ancillary services,” the women further demanded.

They explained that their demand is hinged on the fact that Ogoni women “have the technical competence and emotional intelligence to participate as of right in every segment of the cleanup process.”

“They, therefore, disavowed the restrictive definition of what they can do within the process as exemplified in the proposals and current training of women in garri production,” they declared.

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Dr Osaroejiji further explained: “The failure by HYPREP to implement the emergency measures recommended by UNEP directly and severally impacts women. When signs restricting entry and use of certain lands, water bodies and wells are not posted and maintained, local women unknowingly use these contaminated spaces bringing disease and death to their families. When alternative sources of potable water are not provided women are forced to utilise contaminated water for their families.

When a health registry and monitoring frameworks are not provided women bear the double burden of caring for their sick loved ones and providing for their families.”

Also speaking, Martha Agbani, Executive Director, Lokiaki Community Development Centre stated the women’s resolve to sustain engagement with relevant authorities until their voices were heard warning that they were ready to resort to legal action to achieve their aim.

She regretted the degenerating health status of Ogoni women noting that issues of health challenges like cancer, ovarian cyst, miscarriages, early menopause, respiratory diseases, among others were rampant among the women attributing it to the effects of the pollution.

Agbani, therefore, demanded the establishment of a health registry by HYPREP to determine the state of the health of the people and provide adequate medical attention for them saying it was a part of the emergency measures recommended by UNEP.

Mike Karikpo, Programme Manager ERA/FoEN Port Harcourt, assured the women of the support of his organisation in engaging HYPREP, government and other relevant authorities to ensure that Ogoni clean up was properly done especially as crude oil was fast losing its reputation as a major foreign exchange earner.

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